A Chipmunk, A Jeep and a Free Lunch

Sometimes there is such a thing as a free lunch.

A chipmunk bought my daughter lunch today.

Allow me to explain.

Waiting in a long line of cars at our usual Thursday lunch drive-through fast food place (autism, routine, usual place) I noticed a really cute chipmunk zipping out from under the fence that enclosed the trash bins.  It kept zipping out, assessing the situation and zipping away again.

Suddenly it decided the moment had come, to zip across the drive-through lane to the shrubbery on the other side.

A lady got out of the jeep ahead of me, and looked under her car. I knew she was looking to make sure the chipmunk hadn’t stopped under her vehicle.

I rolled down my window, to ask her if she saw him under my car, but she immediately said she had accidentally squished a turtle once and didn’t want to squish that chipmunk.

She looked under my car for me, and gave the all clear. Then she got back into her Jeep.

It wouldn’t move.

The parking lights kept blinking. She clearly was shifting into drive, and the thing just wouldn’t go. It revved and blinked. But it wouldn’t move.

I put my car in park, reassured my daughter that I’d be right back, and tapped on the Jeep’s window to see if I could help.

The lady explained it was some kind of safety feature, “auto-park,” that came on when she got out of the car. It had happened before, but she couldn’t remember how to fix it.

She was going to call her son to find out. She felt really bad about holding everyone up and asked me to tell the people behind us what was happening, and I did.

Then I went back to my car to wait.

Nothing happened. Just another round of lights and revving.

Assuming she hadn’t been able to reach her son, I tapped on her window again, and tried to help her look for some switch to flip or button to push.

Nothing.

Then I heard that chiming.

“What if you put on your seat belt?”

She had undone it when she got out of the car, but she hadn’t buckled up again.

She fastened the seat belt, and voila! The car shifted out of park.

I confess to using my “outside voice” to holler one of those big “you’re welcomes!” to the several cars still waiting in line (how humble and gracious, of you, Annie, when the poor lady already felt so bad, and now she was probably embarrassed too, that something so simple solved the problem).

Angelic daughter was nervous, but I told her I had been given the opportunity to do a little thing to help someone. I solved the problem, and that felt good.

We made it to the ordering speaker thingee, placed the order and pulled up behind the lady in the Jeep, who was just finishing up paying for her order.

Or so I thought.

She pulled ahead and and drove off.

I pulled up and stuck my hand out the window, holding the debit card to pay for Angelic Daughter’s lunch.

The kid at the window was clearly pleased about something.

He opened his window, smiled at me, and said, “the lady in the Jeep says thank you.”

“Oh, that’s nice,” I said. I honestly thought he was just conveying a verbal message. I kept holding the debit card out the window toward the kid. He didn’t take it.

“She covered it. Paid for it. All you have to do is pull forward.”

“Oh, how sweet!’ I was really surprised.

And, then of course, (Anxiety! OCD!) worried: is this one of those things where everyone is supposed to pay for the person behind them? Because, for stupid reasons I won’t go into, I couldn’t pay for anyone else’s lunch today. I felt bad about that.

But, I reasoned, I had done everyone in line a service by helping the lady in the Jeep, getting her going so the line could start moving again. It was a long line, but only two or three cars pulled out to park and walk inside the restaurant.

So I decided it was OK to just enjoy her gesture of gratitude, and in turn to extend mine to that cute little chipmunk (usually my nemeses, chipmunks  – they tunnel around in my vegetable garden and dig holes in my yard).  But today a chipmunk was the genesis of an opportunity to help.

So thanks, little dude.

Now get off my lawn.

Thankful also that the sun is emerging, and summer (technically – still cool and rainy) starts tomorrow, I remain,

Your appreciating-the-little-things-today,

Ridiculouswoman

(PS – OK, I know that Bitmoji image up there is supposed to be a gopher, but you get the idea. Feel free to share funny Caddyshack references, though).

Big News

Nothing like a little external validation – for my writing.

A piece of mine was featured yesterday on wowblog.me; “wow” stands for “Women’s Older Wisdom.”

Here’s a direct link:

http://wowblog.me/this-isnt-exactly-what-we-had-planned/

I will be paid for it.

Let’s let that land for a minute.

I have been writing since I was a pre-schooler. This is the first time I can remember where I will be paid for writing something that wasn’t to serve or promote an organization I worked for as an employee, or to win a prize in school by writing about someone else’s writing.

This is me getting paid for writing as me, A WRITER.

Hot damn.

Validation, thy name is “the check’s in the mail.”

And delightfully, validation out of serendipity: this opportunity came about because my cousin forwarded a link to “On Dying Heroically” to Pat Taub, who runs wowblog.me. An invitation to submit a guest post resulted. So thanks, Cos! And thanks, Pat, for the opportunity.

I chose an image of fireworks against a dark sky for this announcement, because this accomplishment is a bit bittersweet: I was asked to produce a piece on widowhood in middle age. But that’s what I’m living and writing about, so that was fine with me.

For those of you looking for guest post opportunities, Wowblog.me is interested: the blog wants to reflect diverse opinions and experiences. If you want to submit, your piece should be 550-650 words and you should include a short bio (100 words or less) and a thumbnail head shot. Take a look at the blog to get an idea of the kinds of articles published there.

When I looked at my stats, I realized that readers who came over from wowblog.me to check out Ridiculouswoman were looking at pages I hadn’t updated in a while, like my about page, and my books and music page. So that gave me a nudge to tidy those up a bit.

I did recently add a few new entries to the Snark Tank – check out “Whipped,” “Meat is Gluten Free!” and a new, top entry under “Shit Doctors Say.”

That this happened, getting published on somebody else’s blog and getting paid for it,  finally pushed me to add “freelance blogger” to my resume and even to my LinkedIn profile. Not that I’d quit a day job, if I had one! Still looking, there. But I’m looking for a day job (or a part-time job or any kind of a job that will bring in some money to pay for silly things like health insurance and electricity) to support my brand new, long-postponed, writing “career” and related (hoped-for) speaking engagements.

If you’re new here, please sign up to follow either through WordPress or by email (there are links on the right) and do share your comments – you don’t have to have an account to do that. (If you run into any snags trying to post a comment, please let me know and I’ll look into it.)

Thanks for reading and for your support. Readers of and commenters on this blog are my online community, and I love you. I really do. Curses, no tissues handy, again…

Sore from newly adopted devotion to working out spurred by alarming weight gain, and trying to get up the gumption to paint another room, I remain,

Your actually published by someone other than myself,

Ridiculouswoman

Tandem and Telescope: A Father’s Day Lament

The things you buy at garage sales or online just might be sacred objects.

The tandem is gone. I finally sold it, at a garage sale, for a tenth of what it originally cost.

The telescope, too. Sold on Letgo, for a third of a tenth of what it originally cost. It sat in the garage for more than 15 years; he stopped using it when something went awry with the star-finder thing; IMG_20190602_133923769_HDR~3.jpghe wasn’t much for spending time trying to figure out how to fix things, even if it was just how to recharge or replace a battery. He lost his astronomical mo.

Or maybe it was just that I had chosen the wrong kind of scope, or didn’t get the right filters or something, and he didn’t want to hurt my feelings so he used it for a little while and then retired it to the garage, where it stayed gathering dust for years. I was glad to see it go.

The tandem is another story. That was hard. It went to someone down the street and around the corner, but I’m guessing it isn’t going to stay there – probably will get resold for more than I got for it.  So though I told the buyer I was happy it would stay in the neighborhood, I cried when it was rolled away.

Mike transported our daughter all over the place on that thing, from the time she was in elementary school through half of high school, when she had gotten big enough to make her difficulty with pedaling with any force, a problem.

The diagnosis came a year or so after that.

So off to a corner by the wall in the garage it went, to gather dust itself, forlorn.the tandem

People in town who never met or spoke to Mike, knew him by that bike. They saw him riding her to school, then home by himself (a total distance of 5 miles), then back to school to pick her up and home again.

They saw them riding together on the bike paths, through the forest preserves and to the pool in the summer.

The bike, and how Mike used it to get her from place to place, become a sort of living “meme” of  fatherly devotion around here. Mike simultaneously got our daughter some fresh air and exercise (her legs had to go up an down, even if she couldn’t pedal very hard) while also giving her a view beyond the boundaries of our home and her school. Kids with developmental differences are often isolated, kept in their “special” classrooms for more than half the day, then transported to some kind of program filled with more kids with differences, to spend time until a parent could pick them up.

Mike didn’t let that happen to her.

Even though he chose to spend a lot of time alone, imposing a lot of isolation on himself, and by extension on our daughter, they were a very happy team, and under his protection, on the back of that bike, she got a broader view of the world and its possibilities.

Mike also got time away from the routine – the frequent drudgery – of being the stay-at-home parent.

But he made sure we knew that he loved his job.

And the bike was very much a symbol of that. Not just to me.

So if you happen to come across a big blue tandem on E-bay or some other online marketplace, please show it some respect. It might have been ridden by a World’s Greatest Dad.

I never got him that t-shirt. He wouldn’t have worn it, anyway, and he didn’t need a t-shirt for everyone to see what a great Dad he was. All he had to do was get on that bike.

There are two women, myself and our daughter, who have shed more tears today over that bike, and the Dad who rode it with such strength, love and devotion.

May happy memories, and maybe a good bike ride, comfort those who are missing their Dads today, and strengthen bereaved Moms who have to tell their kids that it is OK to cry.

And listen, helpless, when they do.

Trying to decide whether today’s cold drizzly mist is a blessing or an excuse, I remain,

Your thinking of buying a “World’s Greatest Dad” balloon to tie to the shepherd’s crook at Mike’s gravesite,

Ridiculouswoman

How Not To Paint A Room: Front Room Ceiling

Soak and roll. No two coats, not this time. Oops, ….

Wisdom of experience. Prepare carefully. Aren’t you smart.

Move furniture away from walls. Pack tchokes and photos from mantlepiece into big plastic box.

Roll up large rug. Favorite thing. First thing we bought together, when we first moved in and had some money. Must not drip on that.

Place Angelic Daughter’s sculptures on or next to couch, along with The Ancestress Chair.

Cover all with huge drop cloth. Smile. So smart to invest in that.

Remove Angelic Daughter’s paintings, and all other framed stuff, from walls. Place in next room.

Next, tape floor. Wisdom of experience. Floor protected with two inches of frog tape against base of wall.

Tape perimeter of windows, anticipating painting trim. Smile. Exceptional forethought. Pat yourself on the back. You’re getting really good at this.

Place six feet of three-foot wide plastic along floor below first section of ceiling to be painted.

Do the edges first, all around, three inch roller.

Excellent forethought once again. Do all the up-on-the-stepstool stuff first, while fresh.

Place can of ceiling paint left over from last time on plastic. Open.

Rust falls into paint. How did that new can rust so fast? Eh.  Stir it around, find it, pick it out.

Place ladder on top of plastic.

Hmm. Slips a little. Resolve to go slowly and be careful.

Soak three inch roller in ceiling paint until it drips. Ha! No two coats this time!

Discover that safely ascending stepstool whilst (HA! “whilst!”) carrying small paint tray and roller is a feat of derring-do. Remind self, “don’t fall,  don’t fall.”

You don’t fall. Yay you.

Raise paint-soaked roller to position at edge of ceiling. Roll, baby, roll.

Smile. This no-two-coats-paint-soaked-roller thing is working well! Remind self to use same method with long pole attachment for remainder of ceiling in this, the largest room in the house.

Section by section, move plastic around perimeter of room. Soak, roll.

Complete perimeter of ceiling.

Step back.

Notice that two inches of frog tape is not, apparently, enough width to protect floor from  drips when raising paint-soaked roller.

Eh. Came off easily last time. Continue.

Attach long pole extension to 6 inch roller. Drag plastic to center of room, next to drop cloth. Pour paint into large tray with liner.

Wide river of paint runs down can when replaced on plastic, creating small puddle.

Don’t step in that.

Immediately step in that whilst (!) wrangling roller on long pole into tray to soak in paint.

Notice this only when returning to plastic to re-soak roller after completing first section of ceiling interior.

Footprints, tracking across expensively sanded, refinished floors.

Sigh.

Eh, came off easily last time. Resolve to get this sucker done without regard to drips. Horse has left barn. Ship has sailed.

Because, no two damn coats, not this time.

Proceed.

Whilst (!) circumnavigating room with long pole topped by paint-soaked roller, around  treasures that must not be dripped on under huge drop cloth, kick hidden base of Angelic Daughter’s largest sculpture.

Cracked.

Rats.

Resolve to repair already once-repaired masterpiece, when paint job is over.

Notice that hoisting paint-soaked roller on long stick and applying force while rolling back and forth is great exercise! Sweating! This counts as workout!

Breathing hard! Yay you!

When paint from soaked roller drips onto lips rather than into open, breathing-hard mouth, resolve to react with gratitude. Didn’t go into mouth. Also grateful for reminder that you are not a mouth breather, dammit (except when singing.)

Close mouth. Don’t sing.

Complete interior of huge ceiling.

Step back (into another paint splatter). Regard ceiling.

Hmm.

One-coat job gives new meaning to the words, “missed a spot.”

Sigh.

Re-soak roller, now stiffening with semi-dried paint.

Re-apply to missed spots.

Paint goes on lavender, dries white.

Decide that missed spots are just not-dry-yet spots.

Lunchtime! Angelic Daughter has waited patiently all morning, in the next room, when the front room is the one she likes to sit in best.

Anticipating need for further touch ups, drive to grocery salad bar in paint clothes.

See shoppers recoil.

Don’t worry, Angelic Daughter serves up her own soup and salad.

Pay. Return home. Check that all paint has been removed from lips.

Eat lunch with Angelic Daughter, who deserves much more of your time.

Look up.

Ceiling dried, missed spots remedied.

Shower time.

Brings new meaning to, “cleans up easily with soap and water.”

Scrub, rub, lather, rinse, repeat.

Exhaustion.

Smile. Ceiling and workout, done. Two birds.

Observe floor of front room.

Footprints. Splatter. Streaks.

Sigh. Came off easily last time.

But last time was an eighth this size, and “cleans up easily with soap and water.” Not water. Wood floor cleaner.

Eh. Do walls tomorrow and worry about floor later. Don’t worry today about worries you can worry about tomorrow.

Until then, I remain,

Your sore-in-places-I-never-imagined-there-were-muscles-to-get-sore,

Ridiculouswoman

 

A Token of Your Disrespect

Happy to be a token of your illusory search!

Oh, ok, NOW I remember – I should have asked, “are there any internal candidates for this position?”

Because if there are, my presence in this interview must be solely to provide the illusion of a “search,” when the outcome is a foregone conclusion. So check off that age/gender discrimination box, kids! You’re covered!

“Hey, we interviewed the old lady, but decided our (select all that apply) younger, maler, cheaper, insider-er candidate was a better, erm,….fit.”

Oh yeah? Well, nuts to you! I didn’t want to work at your boring old cube farm anyway, so there!

Here endeth the tantrum.

Back to the job boards, and “kondo-ing” the hell out of the house to find anything I can sell online that might squeeze out a buck or two.

Next on the list: call financial advisor. Confess you should have allowed her to re-balance portfolio before the most recent downturn. Nobody can time the market, right? But I should have seen this train coming.

Sigh.

Then, get back on that querying horse, now that I have a better idea of how to write a query letter and have figured out “comps” that might be applicable:

DETOUR IN CANCERLAND is like Jenny Lawson (Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, A Funny Book About Horrible Things) and Jen Lancaster (Bitter Is The New Black) if they were twenty years older, bereaved, and had been raised by Olive Kitteridge.”

Good old Olive. “No one’s cute who can’t stand up straight.” Sounds just like Mom.

I’m also going to get started on my next book, “The Widow Rules: In Which a Ridiculous Woman Desperately Fails to Meet Expectations.”

First line: “Well, the tits on a platter thing didn’t work out so well.”

Working on it.

In the meantime, I remain,

Your preparing-to-deliver-the-stuff-I-sold-online-in-a busy parking-lot-right-across-from- the-pizza-shop-where-we-are-regulars-which-is-owned-by-a-big-strong-neighbor-guy-and-staffed-by-several-other-guys-who-recognize-me-and-could-keep-an-eye-out,

Ridiculouswoman

Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay

On Dying Heroically

Facing death quietly and privately is heroic, too.

Facing a terminal diagnosis is heroic, no matter how a person chooses to react.

But in the end, dying heroically is still dying.

Some people respond to a terminal diagnosis by doing something unbelievably difficult – accomplishing some spectacular feat of physical endurance or creating a final artistic magnum opus. I admire them. They will leave an extraordinary legacy of courage that inspires those who never knew them, and comforts those who did.

But I simultaneously want to acknowledge those who react to a terminal diagnosis quietly and privately, and face the inevitable for what it is – inevitable. Because even if some miraculous force of will or faith or lifestyle change pulls a person back from the brink to health and longer life, still, in the end, they have not cheated death – simply delayed it.

If you don’t believe that grief and humor can intersect, don’t click on the link below (and don’t let little kids watch it). But if you can tolerate a spot of dark humor, here’s a little ditty my eldest brother composed for the theater company he works with (the show this song preceded was called “Serial Killers” because the audience got to vote on which short play it wanted to see serialized, with the next episode performed the next week, and which would not return). This song was actually written for Halloween, but in it’s way it makes a point about the inevitable:

My late husband Mike wouldn’t read the books I got him about food as medicine or meditation as a way to combat cancer. He didn’t want the little Zen painting kit I got him, thinking it would provide calming distraction from chemo and pain. He didn’t decide to spend his last ounces of energy biking across the country (which he had wanted to do when we first met) or touring the world to see spectacular places he hadn’t had the chance to visit.

He decided to stay home, with us. He calmly and bemusedly tolerated my lapse into temporary insanity, my mad and desperate decision to remodel the kitchen and finish the basement and replace the windows and rebuild the fence and the deck while ridiculously falling in love with the man in charge of the whole project, as if improving our home would help him live longer in it and as if falling in love again would give me a some kind of do-over – make me younger and less inevitably widowed.

Mike used his last ounce of strength to hold our daughter’s hand and say to her, “Remember, Dad’s love never ends.”

This from a stay-at-home-Dad, two days before he died, facing the excruciating pain of having to leave behind the exceptional, non-neurotypical child he had raised from infancy to the threshold of adulthood.

That was heroic.

And we will, and we do, remember.

If you have lost a loved one who had chosen to face a terminal diagnosis privately, accepting the inevitable calmly and with quiet dignity, or who received that diagnosis beyond the time they would have had the physical or mental strength to choose any other way, I’m sure you understand, and I want to acknowledge, their courage.

Mike said something else to me that has helped me cope.

When I asked him if he wanted both of us to be with him when it happened, he said it didn’t matter.

He said, “everyone dies alone.”

He was right. Even if a person departs “surrounded by their loved ones,” the final trip is always a solo flight.

We had a deal – he promised to “call me when you get there” – based on past experiences of hearing from departed loved ones, in unusual but unmistakable ways, in the two or three days immediately following their passing. Messages in music, or in electronics behaving strangely, or in the appearance of symbolic animals, or through experiences of visitation.

He kept his promise. He called when he got there. He did his best to let me know he made it, that he “arrived to his destination,” and that he was free and at peace.

That was heroic, too.

When grief washes over me, or bursts unexpectedly inside my chest, I try to remember those little messages he has sent and continues to send, and maintain faith in eventual reunion, when my time comes.

Which it will (“but not yet, not yet…”), even if, between now and then, I manage to write a bestseller, survive another Polar Vortex or achieve EGOT (win an Emmy, a Grammy, a Tony and an Oscar).

Wishing you the comfort of happy memories in the face of loss, and confidence in eventual reunion, I remain,

Your trying-not-to-think-about-the-inevitable-too-much-and-enjoy-the-now,

Ridiculouswoman

Image by Yolanda Coervers from Pixabay

Salute for Sophie

Sophie’s backyard friends held the gathering I could not.

He wouldn’t have dared, if she was still with us. That was her spot.

She’d sit there in the evening, Mistress of All She Surveyed.

I think he misses her. He loved to bait and taunt her, and she loved to ignore him more often as she got older. He’s actually probably the child or grandchild of a previous rodent provocateur. But it’s game over, now.

The house, and the yard, have been very quiet since Sophie went. The scritching in the wall next to my desk, which drove me nuts for weeks, has stopped, with no corresponding smell that would indicate demise. Just a cessation of sound, signaling that whatever had been making it has finally chosen to vacate the premises.

The neighbor’s-from-two-streets-over cat, a wide ranging tabby, had taken up residence under our deck. This cat has been coming around for a few years, and looks exactly like a cat that showed up at my Mom’s house all the way on the other side of town shortly after Mom died, acting like she owned the place. Like we were supposed to open up and let her the hell into HER house. It could be the same cat, for all I know. The neighbors said she really gets around – had to chip her because she kept turning up so far afield.

I’ve found her on our roof from time to time, or up on the deck railing (also Sophie’s spot – where she’d come to the kitchen window to ask to be let back into the house.)

But a few days ago, that tabby came out from under the deck (better her than the former resident, a huge skunk, or the raccoons before that) and she hasn’t been back.

I  honestly think these creatures know that Sophie is gone, and are mourning her in their way.

As I was regarding that chipmunk, sitting where Sophie sat last Saturday evening, her last, as it turned out, I decided to take a picture rather than shoo him off the deck. He looked forlorn.

Just then, the hummingbird that my daughter had reported sighting several times appeared, closer to the house than the chipmunk, and lowered itself elegantly into the cupped petals of the tulips I had planted for Mike, so he’d have flowers to look at during his ceaseless rounds of dishwashing, before the kitchen was redone.

And here was that hummingbird, a symbol of Mike to me, sinking gently into those tulips, and of course zipping out and out of sight, when I tried to creep silently (not so silently, I guess) out of the house to get a closer look.

The chipmunk took off as soon as my footsteps sounded on the deck’s planks.

Somehow I found comfort in these creatures this morning.

It was as if they were paying their respects.

My daughter continues her daily, sighing expression, “I miss Dad,” now recited as, “I miss Dad and I miss Sophie.”

But a few days after we said goodbye to Sophie, she also said, for the first time in the nearly three years since Mike died,  “I went to the gathering for Dorothy Elaine (her grandmother.) I liked the gathering for Dorothy Elaine. When is a gathering for Dad?”

I dissolved. How was I going to explain to her that it was much too late for that? That, because of decisions Mike had made and because of how he had chosen to circumscribe his life, it was already too late for that a decade before we even knew he was sick?

There were four people at Mike’s burial – me, our daughter, our pastor and the hospice chaplain, who had quickly become Mike’s friend in the last week or two of his life, through a shared love of poetry, discovered in the first few minutes of their first conversation.

“Remember that beautiful day, sweetheart? The day we put the stone box with Daddy’s ashes into the ground at his gravesite? We read the poems, and you and I both chose beautiful flowers to leave for Dad? That was his gathering, sweetheart – there won’t be another one.”

And there won’t be one for Sophie, because I said no when the vet asked if we wanted the ashes. Didn’t think about processing time for her, to ask, and me, to decide. So too late for that, now, as well.

But I will tell her about the chipmunk, and the neighbor’s cat and the hummingbird, who seem to have organized a “gathering” of their own – one that seemed to me to be an acknowledgement of Sophie’s absence and a kind of farewell.

Didn’t sleep much last night, so we slept away today’s gloomy, grey, rainy, quiet, almost peaceful, morning.

So long, Soph.

With this final farewell to my feline friend, I remain, your struggling but starting to surface again,

Ridiculouswoman